Letter to the Editor: Utah Reps Should Support Citizens with Disabilities, Not Restrict Women


Utah State Government Utah Building United States

By The Daily

Representative Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, has proposed a bill representing legislation at its worst. HB 205, “The Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act” is a proposed ban on abortion for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy affected by Down Syndrome. This asserts an astonishing level of intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship. As the Supreme Court has already upheld a woman’s right to receive an abortion for any reason, this bill is destined to be struck down in an appellate court after a beleaguered legal battle paid for by Utah taxpayers.

The decision to raise a child with Down Syndrome is a difficult one, as a parent usually faces a lifetime of caring for that child. This can be a very daunting and difficult prospect — indelible responsibility, albeit for a child you love, but one that may require inordinate sacrifices. These parents, however, are not the only ones with responsibilities to those with Down Syndrome.

Representative Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, proposed a fiscal note of $1.8 million to support about 250 people with Down Syndrome who have been on the waiting list for services for more than a year. This fiscal note was deemed “not germane” to the bill by an overwhelming majority. This is the perfect synecdoche for reproductive rights in the United States: trapping women into pregnancies, and not supporting them when they lack the means to support the child.

We have a social services system that stipulates that if you are disabled to a certain point, you qualify for services. Individuals with Down Syndrome do qualify, but because of the way that our system works, they most often do not receive services until a parent is no longer able to care for them. Rep. Ward testified, “In social services this week, we heard from a woman whose son has now been on the waiting list for 22 years with no end in sight.” If the state is going to require this level of responsibility from women, then it ought to require this level of responsibility from itself.

This bill flew through the House without debate and is flying through the Senate. It is not getting enough attention. Whatever your personal thoughts and feelings are about abortion, there are plenty of reasons to oppose this bill. To find out how to contact your senator, go to le.utah.gov


Zoë Diener 

MSPH University of Utah